Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith in his book The theory of moral feelings pointed out that many of the choices we make as humans are influenced and limited by our mental resources: cognitive ability, attention span, and motivation.
Behavioral economics is based on this central idea of human psychology that humans do not always behave for their own benefit or as “rational agents”. This process is based on three key principles:
- While people’s behavior is strongly influenced by social norms, understanding the drivers of social norms can enable change.
- People have enormous inertia when making a choice; they prefer to stick with the default option.
- As people struggle to maintain good habits, repeated reinforcement and reminders of past successful actions can help maintain behavior change.
efficient and continuous Implementation of Behavior Change Communication (BCC) strategies is the key to lasting change. He is essential to “nudge” or gently steer people towards desirable behavior while preserving their freedom of choice.
People are more likely to change their behavior if others who do so belong to their community.
Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 focuses on sustainable behavior change while embarking on new sustainable solid waste management programs.
Solid waste management is an urgent civic and environmental challenge in India. the indiscriminate dumping of solid waste in landfills has serious consequences not only for residential dwellings but for society as a whole due to its contribution to global warming. Biodegradable waste in landfills releases methane, which has a global warming potential about 27 times greater over 100 years than carbon dioxide.2
Encouraging “good behavior” or recognizing individuals who source segregate waste or dispose of waste responsibly leads to an emphasis on social norms.
Positive reinforcement is the preferred method. This means that people are more likely to follow a desired course of action if it is repeated to them multiple times. Those who have done exemplary work are publicly commended and appropriately engaged to spread the message to other communities.
For example, the IEC guidelines of the Swachh Bharat mission state that positive reinforcement by celebrating the champions of Swachhta within the community increase the likelihood of message retention. Results from an experiment in the Netherlands showed that a sign around bins with the message “Help keep it clean here: most people in this neighborhood don’t litter around containers” reduced waste frequency from 50% to 30%.
Beneficial social norms that spread a more environmentally conscious view, draw attention to role models/influencers that people can identify with, or share success stories of how people have made a visible contribution in the past can go a long way in motivating desirable behavior or behavior change.
People are more likely to change their behavior if others who do so belong to their community. Community-level concern also highlights non-conformists, and fear of community contempt or a desire to fit in, or both, can lead people to actively participate. The results indicate that social information and calls for normative behavior reduced water consumption by up to 6.8% in households, as they were provided with information about how they compared to their neighbors.
There is enormous potential to design sustainable waste management programs/campaigns in a way that leverages behavioral principles and overcomes inherent biases in individuals. The main principles to remember are highlight the social norm or “good behavior” techniques that involve personalities or a trusted authority figure that individuals can relate to. Communicate the results or benefits of good behavior and remind people of their past behavior.
For example, the study Social standards and energy conservation by Professor Hunt Allcott published in the Journal of Public Economics revealed that household energy consumption decreased by an average of 2% by providing households with information on their past energy consumption and that of their neighbours.
It’s essential to use the power of a clear message – easy to remember, intuitive and resonating with the target audience. Malls, supermarkets, and retail stores are efficient for such communications, especially in billing queues when customers are waiting for their turn to pay for their purchases. Murals and writings are powerful tools to reinforce positive messages.
According to the NITI Aayog Policy guidelines to promote behavior change to strengthen source separation of waste3 released in November 2021, products and packaging could also be designed in innovative ways to make disposal simple and intuitive, thereby making source separation automatic.
Techniques that get people to come together, assess their community’s waste management situation and plan the next course of action make people feel more involved and responsible.
Interpersonal communication such as door-to-door campaigns, community events, awareness campaigns and the use of all forms of communication (pictorial and multilingual) are crucial.
With this in mind, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Karo Sambhav launched a campaign called #Recyclegiri on integrating responsible waste management into everyday life. The campaign is part of the project titled “Developing Collection Infrastructure and Recycling Platform for Plastic Waste and e-Waste in Non-Urban India” which is funded by the develoPPP program which GIZ is implementing on behalf of of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Its goal is to bring about behavioral change in individuals through ongoing information, education and communication.
Currently, Recyclegiri has reached over 10 lakh people in Varanasi and Goa, to make it a nationwide collaborative effort. To learn more about the campaign and its activities on the ground, take a look at #Recyclegiri on Twitter!